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Tesla solar roof cheaper than regular roof, says Musk – electricity “a bonus”

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One Step Off The Grid

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has again set tongues wagging, this time with his declaration last week that his newly launched integrated solar roof tiles could actually cost less to install than a regular roof – making the renewable electricity they produce “just a bonus”.

The claims, which are already being carefully dissected by various media pundits, were made by Musk last Thursday, after Tesla and SolarCity shareholders voted in favour of a $2 billion deal to merge the two companies into a solar, battery storage and EV powerhouse.

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“It’s looking quite promising that a solar roof will actually cost less than a normal roof before you even take the value of electricity into account,” Musk said.

“So the basic proposition would be, ‘Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, last twice as long, cost less and by the way generates electricity?’ Why would you get anything else?”

As reported last month, Musk unveiled four different types of surprisingly stylish looking solar shingle options at a much-hyped LA launch event in October.solar roof tiles tesla

 

At the time, the cost of the shingles was unknown – and their release was somewhat overshadowed by the the unveiling of Tesla’s second generation Powerwall home battery storage units, at twice the capacity and half the cost per kilowatt-hour.

But the shareholder approval of the Tesla-Solar City merger put Musk’s solar roof right back in the picture and gave him the impetus to make his next big announcement.

According to Bloomberg, it was just minutes after the deal was approved that Musk told the crowd that he had just been advised by his engineering team that the company’s solar roof would actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof – even before savings from the power bill. “Electricity,” he said, “is just a bonus.”

Of course, as Bloomberg and many others have noted, the high-end terracotta and slate tiles that Tesla’s solar shingles have been designed to look like are among the most expensive roofing materials on the market, so this must be taken into consideration against Musk’s rather sensational claim.

And as Gizmodo wondered, how Musk’s claims shape up next to the average cheap Australian corrugated iron roof remains to be seen.

But then Musk has said that his tempered-glass roof tiles, engineered in Tesla’s new automotive and solar glass division, will weigh as little as a fifth of current products and are considerably easier to ship – being more robust. Thus, much of the cost savings Musk is anticipating will come from shipping the materials.

As for the “bonus” electricity generation component of the tiles, Tesla will produce the solar cells for the roof with Panasonic at its manufacturing facility in Buffalo, New York. And at a November conference call, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said the companies were aiming for 40 cents a Watt, which puts it in line with the competition.

This article was originally published on RE sister site One Step Off The Grid. To sign up for our weekly newsletter, click here.  

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  • Alastair Leith

    So what I argued a year ago — that PV cells will be added to external building cladding products for a trivial manufacturing cost to increase point of sale relevance (read viability) would happen before the projected free-solar-energy year of ~2036, has already start to happen.

  • solarguy

    I’d like to see how they will be installed and wired up. At this stage I’m sceptical of Elon’s claim. After all electricians aren’t skilled roofers and roofers aren’t electricians.

    • aussiearnie

      Well I am sure electricians can be taught to install roofs and roofers can be taught to connect wires….

      • solarguy

        You are required by law to be a licenced electrician to perform electrical work.

        • jeffhre

          Strange – licensed electricians have lots of helpers who are not licensed. How did that happen?

          • solarguy

            By law they cannot do wiring, simple as that.

          • jeffhre

            Yet and still, the question raised goes unanswered.

          • solarguy

            What don’t you understand about what you have been told?

          • jeffhre

            What don’t you understand about what you have been asked?

          • solarguy

            Clearly, there is something wrong with your mentality. You can be a nurse and assist a surgeon, but that doesn’t mean your a doctor does it.

          • jeffhre

            “Clearly, there is something wrong with your mentality. You can be a nurse and assist a surgeon, but that doesn’t mean your a doctor does it.”

            Thank you, clearly from that response you knew exactly what I was referring to all along. I’m curious. What came first, the realization that it would seem silly if you continued to prevaricate, the frustration of not getting your way with a poorly thought out argument, or the desire to launch ad hominem prattle.

            Anyhow, thank you for the rational parts of your response!

            Let’s walk through your analogy. Once the surgery is complete, your doctor will walk through the hospital to see you, on selected days, for a few minutes. Other than that the nurses, nursing assistants, technical specialists, orderlies, clerical and housekeeping staff will be conducting nearly all in hospital activities on your behalf 24/7 for your hospital stay. And no your (sic) not a doctor. Licensed physician in and out of the building, but the work goes on…

            Licensed electrician pulling wires or taking a coffee break, and the work goes on – are there only licensed electricians working on installing solar? Or are there perhaps others working as well?

          • solarguy

            Yep, we got a thinker here. In the first instance a labourer can under supervision from a qualified sparky, pull wiring, so what!
            What you don’t get is that that labourer can’t connect the wires, unless the voltage is less than 120volts DC. That moron requires a licensed sparky to connect several hundred volts.

          • Ian

            Electricians and roofers are trained to handle products thought up by a range of people, some engineers, some technicians and some by ordinary unqualified people. If the need arises, like it would with a cross-over product like a solar shingle, then the qualifications will just have to adapt so that these things can be safely installed. Not really an insurmountable problem unless you’re trying to protect your turf. That after all is the very complaint against the old FF guard. They have too much to lose to change their stance.

          • solarguy

            Ian, like I said in my first post on this subject, I would like to see how their going to be wired up, as safety is my main concern. 100 of these things joined in series could produce up to 437 volts DC, WHICH IS LETHAL! There can be many more than 100 tiles on any given roof, so a roof tiler could place them on a roof if the design is right, but someone ( a qualified sparky) needs to design the DC buses and connect the wiring, plus the whole thing has to be tested and commissioned.
            Add the cost of a PV cell to each tile and it’s connection to the bus what ever method is used, I can’t see how Elon’s system could be cheaper than a conventional roof

          • jeffhre

            Asked and answered – but thanks for participating.